Proving that Yorkshire is the region that just keeps on giving, Harrogate Theatre’s third All Points North annual mini-season of northern talent.
Boasting four associate companies, two premieres, one major revival and a wigged out wigged up version of a classic period comedy, the third All Points North festival (Saturday 13 September to Saturday 4 October) looks set to capitalise on the huge success of the festival’s previous outings, with more plays and more breadth showcasing even more Yorkshire brilliance.
Harrogate Theatre’s associate company scheme is going great guns, as evidenced by the excellent offerings for All Points North, which opens with Lunabug Theatre’s brand new show about the winged heroes of World War I, Pigeon. It also features new work from Harrogate writer Rachael Halliwell, whose staged radio play Room 253 looks at Agatha Christie’s 11-day disappearance, a revival of John Godber’s iconic Bouncers from the ever-impressive Reform Theatre and a Hitchcockian thriller from Square Peg, intriguingly titled The Man Who Woke Up Dead. There’s also a slice of The Smiths courtesy of Cross Cut’s Half A Person, and Northern Broadside’s take on Oliver Goldsmith’s She Stoops To Conquer.
Inventive, tender-hearted and wonderfully daft, Lunabug Theatre’s Pigeon (Studio, Saturday and Sunday September 13 and 14), the true tale of feathered heroism in the First World War will captivate adults and children alike. Using puppetry, live music and joyously silly characters, Naomi Rothwell and Beth Caudle create plenty of laughs and moments of genuine poignancy as they travel back 100 years in time to the battlefields of World War I, when pigeons saved lives by flying vital messages behind enemy lives. Pigeon centres on the story of Cher Ami, a homing pigeon, who was awarded the Croix de Guerre medal with a palm Oak Leaf Cluster for heroic service.
Harrogate playwright Rachael Halliwell (a former member of Harrogate Youth Theatre and the woman behind much-loved play Deidre & Me) has taken inspiration for her latest play from the 11-day disappearance of Agatha Christie in 1926, which caused a national brouhaha. The grand dame of crime fiction had actually holed up in Harrogate’s The Swan Hotel; Halliwell’s Room 253 (named for the room Christie took at The Swan) pieces together real-life clues to unravel one of the greatest mysteries of the 20th century. Presented as a staged radio play, with foley artists live onstage, Room 253 (Studio, Friday 26 and Saturday 27 September) is more a whydunit than a whodunit, but gripping nonetheless.
A name synonymous with a solidly smashing production, Keith Hukin’s Reform Theatre is no stranger to tackling classic texts. One of the most performed plays of all time and a school set text, John Godber’s iconic Bouncers (Harrogate Theatre, Tuesday 23 to Saturday 27 September) is perfect Reform fodder. Lifting the lid on the Friday night experience, four actors take on numerous roles to create a hysterical and poignant send-up of the nightclub scene, as a host of colourful characters collide to outrageous results.
Brilliant young company Square Peg isn’t afraid to be different: its noir thriller The Man Who Woke Up Dead (Studio, Wednesday 1 and Thursday 2 October) takes its influences from 1950s cinema, George Orwell’s dystopian worlds and Hitchcock’s darkest thrillers to take audiences on an absorbing nightmare journey. Exploring the divide between fact and fiction, The Man Who Woke Up Dead follows what happens when a mysterious man rescues an unsuspecting nurse, a move that unwittingly uncovers a web of deceit, betrayal and manipulation.
Fans of Manchester music behemoths The Smiths are in for a treat courtesy of Cross Cut’s coming-of-age story Half A Person: My Life As Told By The Smiths (Studio, Friday 19 and Saturday 20 September). Alex Broun’s one-man-show, peppered with live songs from The Smiths’ extensive back catalogue, charts the life of William, a 20-something Londoner falling in love, self-obsessing and finding solace in his favourite band.
Northern Broadsides returns for the third year running, this time with touring show She Stoops To Conquer (Harrogate Theatre, Tuesday 30 September to Saturday 4 October). Directed by Conrad Nelson, Oliver Goldsmith’s flamboyant period comedy is packed with merriment, warmth, wit and wigs. Big wigs. Very big wigs. Following on from the success of A Government Inspector (2012) and The Grand Gesture (2013), Broadsides’ talented cast of actor-musicians brings charisma and magic to this romantic romp of misunderstanding and mayhem, set against the increasingly chaotic proceedings of one very long night.
Tickets for these champion events can be booked securely online at www.harrogatetheatre.co.uk or through the Harrogate Theatre Box Office on 01423 502116.